What others say: When is it time to talk revenue?

  • By Juneau Empire editorial
  • Wednesday, April 29, 2015 3:44pm
  • Opinion

The prospect of the state of Alaska generating more revenue during these budget-bewildering times is a warming thought to Alaskans. But residents must be careful when discussions about “revenue” finally do begin, because we’ve noticed lately that the words “revenue” and “taxes” mean the same thing to many lawmakers and officials.

For the state, increasing existing taxes and implementing new ones is revenue, just not the type Alaskans are thinking of. What residents are wanting to hear are big ideas; ones that draw new industry to Alaska, grow the industries we already have, or which lead to new resource development and the creation of jobs.

Many argue that’s what Medicaid expansion will do for Alaska after $1.1 billion in “new revenue” is added to state coffers — if the program is expanded. Yes, Medicaid dollars fit the definition of “revenue” in technical terms, but expanding state government through federal dollars isn’t the kind of long-term sustainability Alaska needs if we’re to ever ween ourselves from North Slope oil.

Many lawmakers in influential positions have said state spending needs to be curtailed first before talking about growing revenue. That could be a while at the pace we’re going.

Funding from transportation to education has been on the butcher’s block since the legislative session began, and despite carving out healthy chunks from every departmental operating budget, Alaska will still be about $3 billion in the red when the next legislative session begins. We can’t wait until another billion dollars or so is cut before deciding how to grow revenue; the state budget can’t sustain itself off of fishing, mining and tourism alone. We need a new billion-dollar idea, and we need it now.

A liquified natural gasline is perhaps the best replacement for dwindling oil prices, and it’s the sort of big idea we need right now. But any new income from that is years away, and that’s if progress continues uninterrupted. Sadly, the Capital Budget Reserve could be wiped out and a state income tax implemented before ever collecting a penny on a liquified natural gasline.

Gov. Bill Walker has said repeatedly that Alaska doesn’t have a spending problem, it has a revenue problem. We agree, for the most part, though the state’s spending did balloon to unsustainable levels thanks to years of high oil prices and the naivete they would never again fall.

It’s too late in this session to talk revenue, regardless of various parties’ interpretation of what that means. But next year, when lawmakers again are called to Juneau to handle the state’s business, it will be well past time to define what “revenue” means for the state and its citizens — and to bring new, fresh ideas to the table. Those talks should have happened this session, and we can’t afford to let another pass.

Alaska doesn’t have enough revenue to wait until 2017.

— Juneau Empire, April 26

More in Opinion

Jodi Taylor is the board chair for Alaska Policy Forum. (Courtesy photo)
Private school, state reimbursement: family choice

By Jodi Taylor Alaskan parents have a legitimate right to choose the… Continue reading

t
Opinion: It’s time for bold action to protect our fisheries

Our fisheries feed the world and sustain our unique cultures and communities.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Hard to fill positions?

Paying poverty wages to support staff, secretaries and custodians is unacceptable yet routine behavior by our district

A copy of the State of Alaska Official Ballot for the June 11, 2022, Special Primary Election is photographed on May 2, 2022. (Peninsula Clarion staff)
Choosing a candidate – Who will best represent us in D.C.?

Voters are encouraged to do homework before casting a vote

Tourists watch as one of two cubs belonging to an 18-year-old sow black bear crosses the path between groups of tourists visiting the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Tourists have pushed us to critical mass in parts of Juneau

I don’t go to the glacier in the summer now to hike or watch bears.

Sens. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, left, and Robert Myers, R-North Pole, read through one of 41 amendments submitted to the state’s omnibus budget bill being debate on the floor of the Alaska State Senate on Monday, May 9, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: The Alaska Senate’s foolish gamble

“All these conservative people just spent all our money”

Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships. (logo provided)
Point of View: A few ideas for Mental Health Awareness Month

What are some things you can practice this month and subsequently apply to your life?

Alex Koplin is a founding member of Kenai Peninsula Votes. (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: 1 candidate dined, 47 to go

By Alex Koplin Last month, I wrote a satirical piece for the… Continue reading

Most Read